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Odede named among 100 most influential people globally

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) Founder and CEO Dr. Kennedy Odede has been named among Time100’s most influential people globally.

From pioneers, leaders, and titans to artists, innovators, and icons, these are the most influential and important people in the world of 2024

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In the announcement made on Wednesday, Dr Odede was recognised alongside President William Ruto and World Bank President Ajay Banga among others.

“Kennedy is living proof that individuals can lead themselves, and their communities, out of poverty.”

“Kennedy finds ingenious solutions: schools for the most vulnerable girls, training programs for men to combat domestic violence, safe houses for survivors, community libraries, employment programs, innovative clean-water kiosks, a community cooperative bank,” TIME100 stated.

It added: “There is no challenge he will not take on. He is an unstoppable force for justice. This dream of hope that started more than 20 years ago in his home in Kibera has now reached more than 3 million Kenyans and is rapidly becoming a blueprint that will one day, hopefully, reach the world—a movement for change led by the people themselves.”

Dr. Odede founded SHOFCO in 2024 with a soccer ball and Ksh 20 in Kibera slums in Nairobi and it has now expanded across Kenya, serving over three million people directly.

His organisation is addressing community challenges through various courses such as access to health, WASH, community advocacy platforms, education, and sustainable livelihoods programs.

The oldest of eight children, Dr Odede experienced extreme poverty and violence, became a street boy aged 10 and later joined a gang.

Having struggled to access water in Kibera slums where clean and safe piped water was non-existent, Dr Odede prioritized the provision of it when he founded SHOFCO.

“We used to walk several kilometres to get water and most of the time, we would suffer water-borne diseases because the water we got was contaminated due to the underground pipes getting mixed up with raw sewage,” he said in a past interview.

To reduce contamination, SHOFCO, under Dr. Odede’s leadership, introduced a cutting-edge aerial water piping system which serves over 250,000 residents of Kibera and Mathare slums in Nairobi.

The pipes are connected to 53 water kiosks, allowing residents to access the precious commodity quickly and consistently.

Girl’s education is also close to his heart and after witnessing a lot of gender inequality in the slum, he founded two tuition-free schools for girls in Kibera and Mathare slums.

Shofco Kibera School for Girls (KSG) currently has over 500 students, enjoying full scholarships. The students are picked from the most-needy families in the slums and are enrolled in the school from pre-primary to grade eight.

Several KSG graduates have enrolled in high schools in the United States, and a good number have joined top universities in the US and Kenya.

Shofco Mathare School for Girls (MSG) first cohort sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) last year and recorded 100 per cent transition to high school.

SHOFCO has also spread its wings beyond Nairobi as every year, over 2000 needy students from different counties who score more than 300 marks receive scholarships.

This year alone, some 2,200 needy but bright students have benefitted from the organisation’s scholarship programme.

“In many underprivileged societies, girls are the ones that bear the brunt of poverty. They are denied education and other essential needs in favour of the boy child. Having grown up in an urban slum, I witnessed this.”

“We now have two girl schools. The schools have not only given girls the much-needed education but also opened opportunities for them with some having a rare privilege to join high schools in the United States,” Dr Odede once said.

SHOFCO also runs a health programme and currently has five operational clinics in Kibera and Mathare slums, serving 600 patients daily.

In addition, the organisation is carrying out health outreaches in several slums in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kakamega and Siaya counties.

SHOFCO’s Mathare Clinic became the winner of the 2022 prestigious Excellence in Leadership in Family Planning award.

The organisation emerged as the top in the organization level category after demonstrating its efforts to offer free family planning services to the most vulnerable slum communities in Nairobi.

“The clinics were started from the idea that people should not die because of health care,” Dr. Odede stated.

The SHOFCO boss envisioned serving the slum dwellers. Still, the clinic in Mathare is now providing health solutions to people coming from Kariobangi, Ruaraka and Githurai. At the same time, those in Kibera get cases from Kawangware, Mukuru as far as Kiambu and Kitengela.

The clinics have bagged several other accolades including an Award of Excellence in Improving Access to Primary Healthcare Services in 2020, an award for Excellence in Response to COVID-19 in 2021 and the Best NGO Level 2 Health Centre Award in 2022 (Kibera Clinic).

As a globally recognized community mobiliser, Dr Odede has been encouraging governments, policy leaders and donors to partner with, listen to, and scale up community-led solutions.

In addition, he advocates for immediate shifts in resources and financing towards community-led solutions, moving towards a new development paradigm that promotes racial equity and recognizes deep-rooted community trust as the most powerful tool to deliver impact.

Dr. Odede’s tenacity and persistence over the subject were vindicated in June 2022 when SHOFCO’s community-driven change became a model for global NGOs following a case study conducted by Bridgespan Group which had a close-up look at on-the-ground approaches that make the Kenyan organisation tick.

His organisation stood out among other NGOs around the world with Bridgespan concluding that their model of community-driven change has achieved an impact that lasts because the community feels a sense of ownership.

In November 2023, Dr Odede was named alongside former Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf as the winner of the TIME100 Impact Award.

He is also a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, an Obama Foundation Africa Leader, a USAID Advisory Board member, and the winner of the Mohammed Ali Humanitarian Award among other recognitions.

Dr. Odede is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in African Slum.

He has received several awards in Kenya including a Head of State Commendation (HSC) for his role in combating COVID-19 in slums in 2020.

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